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Apr. 29th, 2014

planning...

So here's what I'm thinking as positive steps for me.

  • Join the gym. To start out, the goal is three 20 minute work outs a week.  And building from there.  Exercise helps with controlling the depressions, will help with mobility, and help fight off osteoporosis.

  • Get up the freaking balls to go to that knitting group. It's a place where I know I have something in common with people and that lessens some of my anxiety and awkwardness.  And as they meet up in bars, it doesn't hurt that I can have a drink.  I need to meet people.

  • Go to a museum once a month. I love museums, but I never go.  Denver's got a shit ton but I never go.  I need to do this to take care of me and do stuff that I enjoy.

  • Clean my apartment. I'll admit that it's out of control right now.  And a clean home helps me feel like I have a clean mind.

  • Try to actually have a conversation with someone who I don't normally talk with. I'm socially awkward and strange, but I'm not going to help my feelings of isolation by isolating myself.  I've told people before that yes, with trying there is always the chance of failure.  But with trying there's always the chance of success too.  Time to take my own damn advice.

*Edited to add. Ok, made a positive move.  Talked with an old friend from high school who's a dog trainer.  I'll be going to hang out with the ten month old puppy he's working with today.  Dogs are better therapists than people.  It's a long haul, but it's a puppy.

ok... so yeah....

Trying to remember all of my coping skills and put them into play.

I need to go back to living a scheduled life. I honestly hate doing it. I'm perfectly comfortable with the fact that I have no real concept of time. But living a scheduled, regimented life helps control the issues. So for now at least, it looks like that's what I need to do. (Although there's part of me that wonders if it's just trying to outrun what waits when I sit down in my own skin.)

I'm trying to come up with positive and appropriate challenges for me to do to. I'm joining a gym in a couple of days. Just waiting for the first so that billing works out the way that I like. It's three blocks away, inexpensive, and something I need to be doing both for my physical and mental health.

I'm considering joining a local knitting group. I've found one on line that suits my criteria, but for right this minute, I'm intimidated by it. It's the whole having to talk to other people thing. Yeah, that part's hard. Maybe I'm jumping a little too far into the deep end. Maybe for this week, just join the gym. Then next week tackle actually talking to people.

I need to take a long walk today. Two and a half miles. The weather's not great, but it's good enough to not be trapped. I need to do at least a little cleaning. I need to do some more research. Blah blah blah. And all I really want to do is sleep. And maybe have some chocolate.

I remember mom when she went through chemo. I'd watch her get ready to leave and she'd get so frustrated because putting on make up took much longer and required products she had never had to use before. I asked her why she did it and she said to me, "When you feel like shit, you have to fight harder. I do this because it's the only way that I can look in the mirror and feel normal." So it's time for me to fight harder so I can feel normal.

Apr. 28th, 2014

Breathe

Breathe through it. When it bubbles up, try to breathe it out. Don't take it out on the people in my life.

The anger phase... probably the most ugly part. Certainly the part where I am most likely to lose control and be a person that I don't want to be.

There are strict reasons that I maintain such a tight control over myself. My disorder is chaotic thoughts, but the thoughts in my head only affect others if I allow them to turn into chaotic behavior.

So now is the time when I don't allow all but two people to touch me. And one of them is in a different state. Of course, not like there's a list of people willing to touch me anyhow. Even in my best days, the list isn't much longer than those two to begin with. My potential reactions are too erratic, too unpredictable. Better to be safe and remove the potential reaction.

So I'm trying. I'm holding on as tight as I can. In a few days, maybe a week, the anger will turn into the next part, the part that's underneath it. Then comes the snap, the massive crying jags, the absolute loss of control. Once I reach the pain underneath the anger, then comes the crying.

Apr. 27th, 2014

Anger Surge

This is always part of my process. And this is the best way I have to get it out.

I realized today that I don't post how bad my emotional state is on FB because the exact same people who would tell me not to kill myself are the exact same people who have little or no interest in being in my life.

I am not having negative behaviors right now. I'm really not. My behavior is still perfectly within the range of normal and healthy. But are the thoughts there? Oh hell yeah.

All those people who would tell me not to kill and/or hurt myself, they do it out of guilt. How is other people's guilt enough reason? And what's more, it makes me angry. It makes me infuriated.

If I really mattered, then they'd be in my life. Period. They'd check on me and care about me regardless of whether or not I was in an episode. They'd want to hang out now and then. They'd pay attention to my life instead of just blatantly ignoring everything I had to say.

Instead I just get their guilt and somehow, someway, that's supposed to be enough.

My problem isn't my disorder. Yes it's affecting me and yes it's making my life more difficult. Absolutely. However, I've gotten extremely good over the years with minimizing how much it affects my behavior. It affects my actions surprisingly little.

My problem is how other people deal with me. And that's not one I can fix. I know that beyond my disorder, I'm a good person. I'm perfectly confident that the person outside the disorder is more than worthy. But, just because I know that doesn't mean other people seem to be willing to see it.

Why should preventing other people's guilt ever be enough reason? What would be enough reason is people who cared about me more than just preventing themselves feeling bad.

Images

Right now, I am choosing to live only so I can make the pieces in my head. I cannot explain this drive that I have, but the images that live in my head, I have to make. Even if no one cares about them in the end, I have to make them.

I have realized over the years that no matter how much we say that everyone has a story to tell, there's a big difference in whether or not anyone wants to listen. I've realized that the people in my life are temporary. For me, there is no such thing as permanence or consistency. My only consistency is the cycles of my mind, the cycles that eventually push everyone out, not because they're scary but because eventually they can't handle it.

I need to show the person underneath the presumptions and false perceptions. I need to show my truth.

At least for now I have something to hold on to. A lot of the time, I don't for bits and pieces of time. I am frightened of the day when I can find nothing, when I have completed all that I have set out to do.

My depression is still ramping up. Last night, as I laid in bed trying to get to sleep, I half imagined, half dreamed, a giant tar pit. I sat beside it and wondered what it would feel like to just step in. Would it count as death by suffocation or death by drowning (of course, drowning really is just a form of suffocation)? I stood, trying to get away from the tar pit, knowing I wasn't ready for it, only to find out that I was already surrounded, trapped on a shrinking island. And I knew that I was already coated in tar, that it sticks to me and coats me every day, that underneath is the person. But all that anyone sees is the tar.

Apr. 26th, 2014

For Those Who Don't Live With It..

There are endless things I can say about living with a mental illness. Literally endless. I can write encyclopedias about it. And I think some of the most important things I have to say deal with the difference between perception and reality.

I experience hallucinations. I'm going through another round of them right now. For this round, (at least so far), this means that I occasionally, three or so times a day, hear light knocking that I try to figure out where it comes from, and with the same frequency, see a large bug running away from me. There's some big points to be made here.

1) There is a tremendous amount of variety to the experiences of those with mental illness. Yes, there are some who experience hallucinations all or the majority of the time and hallucinations that are all encompassing, that swallow up all of reality. However, those people are by far and away the minority. Most people who experience hallucinations are more like me. It's every now and then, relatively minor things that are close enough to reality to be believable. They just aren't real.

The assumption by most people that don't experience hallucinations is that for all people that go through them that they are always all encompassing, that they go on all the time, that they are so outlandish that they would seem ridiculous. Absolutely there are some people like that. But to lump all people that experience them into such an extreme has tremendous negative affects on those who go through it. It makes us all out as much worse than we really are.

2) Ok, so this one I say as a single woman who at least occasionally attempts to date. It's the "I like crazy chicks." If you can't handle real mental illness, if you can't cope with depressions and manias and hallucinations and obsessions and compulsions, no you don't. You like drama whores. And there's a whole massive world of difference between the two.

A drama whore uses the issues in her life as a means of seeking attention. She makes everything over blown and melodramatic because it gets her what she wants. And what she wants is for you to pay attention to her. So every situation, no matter how minor, becomes much bigger than it really is.

I am the exact opposite. I have issues. And the last thing in the world that I want is attention for them. Why? Because the attention I get for mental illness is, more often than not, extremely over blown and negative. It's ignorant and presumptive and makes me out to be worse and less capable of living a normal life than I am. I don't want your fucking pity. All the attention that I want is a consistent, genuine, "How are you doing today?". That's it.

3) Unless you actually ask and genuinely shut up and listen, you're not going to know and you're not going to understand. This is the one that I think has consistently hurt me the most. Communication when I'm going through my episodes of mental illness is tremendously difficult. It's hard to put it into words. I struggle and trip through my speaking. And other than less than a handful of people that I've had in my life, no one is willing to actually stop and let me get through it. They just barrel me over.

And then, to make it much worse, they don't believe what I'm saying and either believe that I'm exaggerating or under reporting it. I'm not. Even in the middle of an episode, I am very very picky about how I communicate. I chose my words with tremendous care. I mean exactly what I'm saying with no spin to either direction. It would be nice to have someone believe me.

It will always sadden me and deeply wound me how few people genuinely care enough to shut up and listen. Even in the middle of an episode, I do as much as I can for others. I can be in the middle of my more extreme hallucinations and still be a supportive, genuine friend. But... for so much of my life and in thousands of ways, it feels as though what I give out is never returned. And that will always break my heart.

There's more. There's a lot more. But that's enough for now.

Apr. 25th, 2014

Figuring Things Out

I'm trying to figure out which is harder: going out into the world as a survivor of abuse and keeping an open heart, or still trying to trust and believe people will be there for me no matter how many times it's not worked out that way. Perhaps it's a division I shouldn't be making. Perhaps it's really just the same battle on different fronts.

It has been an active choice to not allow what I went through affect my ability to love and care for others. It was and will always be a very hard thing to do. But I couldn't live with looking at everyone and suspecting that they would be that bad. Yes, I have very little belief in people as a species. I really don't like most of them. But I can't be that dark. It's just not in me to look at everyone and see them as potential abusers.

So I made a choice to not let it stop my heart. There are countless times, innumerable times where I have had to tell myself, "This is now. That is not my abuser. This is a different person. The only person who deserves the blame for me being hurt is in the past." I have to remind myself of that constantly. I probably will for the rest of my life. There are some things that you don't get over. You just learn how to not let it stop you from living.

But the cost is that it's tremendously difficult for me to trust anyone. What hurts is when I try, when I battle my demons and face them down, and I do trust only to realize in the end that it's misplaced trust, that the person who I have grown to count on will never be the person who I need them to be. They will never give me the support and help that I need.

If I'm lucky, there may be one person every three years who I try to learn how to trust. Sometimes it's as long as a decade or more between them. My world is tremendously small. Those people are extremely rare. And I grow to count on them for helping me to get through, helping me to hang on. But more often than not, in the end, it's a wasted effort. I guess they never really understand that I only ask for help when I genuinely need it. I only say something about what I'm going through when I'm drowning. I don't use it as a means of seeking attention.

I know that how I deal with my "difficulties" isn't the norm. I know that there are many out there who use it as a way to seek attention, as a way of manipulation. But I'm not one of them. I can only live according to my own standards, not according to what is the norm.

It doesn't help at all that the primary trigger emotional states for me are rejection, loneliness, and abandonment.

Sometimes I just wish that someone would see me, really see me. Really see all that I am instead of just their perceptions, instead of just the echos and shadows on the wall.

Right now, I have no hope that that will ever happen. Right now, I can only believe that eventually, I'll just quit trying to reach out and get help and trust. Right now, I can only believe that I can only count on myself.

Apr. 24th, 2014

Breaking the Cycle of Negative Thoughts/Negative Behavior

While I am not a trained psychologist, the following techniques are exactly what I myself have used for my own issues. They were taught to me by a psychologist trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a much more action oriented form of therapy. It's not about dredging up the past. It's all about finding more appropriate ways to deal with the present.

So you've realized that there's negative behavior patterns that you want to break. Good for you. Here's how you begin. You're going to need a journal and you're going to need to write down the exact same questions on every single day. Not kidding. Every day. If you want to type your journal, just copy and paste it over and over.

The questions are as follows:

1) What was the negative behavior?

2) What was the emotional state that came right BEFORE the negative behavior started?

3) What are better ways of appropriately coping with that emotional state?

The reasoning:

While negative behavior is generally a reaction to negative emotional and/or thought states, they go by so fast that we don't realize what is happening. Since they go by so fast, we don't realize in the moment what our emotional triggers are. By slowing down the process and thinking back on it, we begin to realize and acknowledge what particular emotional state it is that gives us such difficulty. For most people with issues of cyclical negative behavior, it's a case of only one or two specific emotional states that give such difficultly. The more we learn to acknowledge the state that gives us such trouble, the more we can learn to deal with it in more appropriate ways and deal with it in a more appropriate fashion.

I'll give you an example. And it's a true one. Just last night, I got a phone call from a friend of mine. This friend has known problems coping with guilt and perfectionism. He had put a plant rack out on his patio with all of his seedlings. Well, a big storm rolled through and his plant rack was blown down. This lead to an hour long crying jag. He called me because he felt horrible that he had such a huge reaction when he hadn't had one when his grandmother passed away after a very long illness. So I walked him through the above questions. 1) The negative behavior was an hour long crying jag. 2) The emotional state right before the crying jag was guilt over not remembering to weight down the plant rack. 3) A more positive way to deal with it would be to forgive himself for not being perfect and realize that it's not that big of a deal. There's still plenty more plants in the world. In addition to that, he realized that his grandmother's death had no guilt attached, just the relief and sense of peace that she was no longer in pain. Once he realize that he didn't love his plants more than his family and that it was just issues with guilt related to not being perfect, he was greatly relieved.

I'm not going to say that this is an easy process. It's not. It takes years to get it down. It takes constant practice and consistency. But I will say this... for myself and everyone else I've seen use this technique, it works. It works wonders. If you acknowledge the negative emotional state that comes RIGHT BEFORE the negative behavior, then you gradually learn how to find better and more appropriate ways to deal with them.

Apr. 23rd, 2014

The Thought/Action Connection

Time for hypothetical people.

Case 1: We have a man named Bob. Bob is an alcoholic. Every time that Bob starts to feel anxiety, depression, or any of a million negative thoughts, Bob's automatic behavior is to turn to alcohol. Bob doesn't even realize that negative feelings are driving his behavior. He's not paying that much attention to the process that goes on internally. He just knows that he drinks because he feels bad, he drinks because he can depend on it, he drinks because he knows it.

Case 2: We have a woman named Susie. Susie is a compulsive shopper. She's got a closet full of brand new things with the tags still on. While Susie has a good job and makes good money, she spends well beyond her means. She has racked up over a hundred thousand in credit card debt. Susie has spent her entire life with profoundly low self esteem. She knows that the clothing makes her feel better, it makes her get compliments. Despite the crippling debt, she keeps it up for those momentary highs.

Case 3: Back to Bob. Bob, this time, starts to realize that he has issues with handling his emotional states. He realizes that he has problems with anxiety and depression. Bob seeks appropriate treatment. Every time that Bob wants to drink, he tries to do something healthy instead. He teaches himself to get out the feelings in a journal, to exercise, to meditate. Because Bob begins to realize that his behavior has been driven by negative emotional states, Bob begins to learn how to appropriately cope with those emotional states. Bob begins to live a much healthier and happier life.

Case 4: Back to Susie. Susie begins to realize that there's all sorts of reasons that have caused her self esteem issues. Part of it is her weight and looks. So she joins a gym, learns from a nutritionist, goes to see a dermatologist. She acknowledges that she had some bad experiences in her past with people who undermined her sense of self. She begins to see that she's been telling herself the same things that those people told her for years. With every step she takes at the gym, every healthy diet choice, every time she stops the negative thinking, she starts to feel better. She begins to see that by making positive choices, she can begin to feel more positive about herself. She too is on her way to a healthier, happier life.

So there's a connection here that I think a lot of people don't really understand. Thoughts and/or feelings directly affect actions and vice versa. One of the most classic examples is the stereotypical woman who's going through a break up and pigs out on ice cream. Step one: depression and anxiety. Step two: junk food binge. Step three: feeling like crap the next day.

Negative behaviors lead to negative emotional states. Positive behaviors lead to positive emotional states. We all go through negative emotional states, those times when we're down on ourselves and the world. They're normal things for everyone. The thing is not allowing those negative emotional states to lead to negative behavioral choices. Instead by simply making positive behavioral choices, we can reverse our negative emotional states and turn them to positive.

For example, instead of binging on ice cream when the depression hits, go exercise. The endorphin rush is proven to counter act the neurological responses of depression. Instead of allowing negative emotional states to control your behavior, acknowledge the emotions and deal with them in a positive way.

Apr. 22nd, 2014

Treating People Right

I want you to think of your child, whether that child is real or imagined. I want you to think of your child at that phase of life where they are beginning to separate from you and more and more of their life depends upon others outside of your home. How do you want your son or daughter treated? How do you want the person of their romantic interest to behave with them? How do you want your child to be treated on the job or out on the street or standing in line for a cup of coffee?

Think of those millions of minor social interactions we have during a year, from the cashier at the grocery store, to the guy we bump into while going out a door and they're coming in. Think long and hard on this. How do you want all those people to treat your child?

You'd want your child treated with dignity and respect and humanity. You'd want those people to be polite and kind and generous. You'd want them to see your child as a person of value, one worthy of being treated right. It's what we'd all imagine and dream of for our children. It's what we all dream of when we love someone.

And here's where it gets a bit different.

That cashier... she's someone's daughter. That guy on the street corner holding up a sign asking for change... he's someone's son. Even that stripper, that prostitute, that drug addict, the dealer they buy from, and the murder in prison waiting for his final execution date...every one of those people out there is someone's child. Every last one. And every one of them has a parent who at one time or another imagined a world where their child could be treated right.

We have lost something as a society. And what we've lost is something so profound that it's a very very bad thing. We, as a society, have lost the ability to look at our fellow man and see someone's child. When we remove that, then we're robbing all those people of their humanity. We're rationalizing why it's really alright to treat those people like garbage. Because hey, if no one cares about them, then those people must be trash, right? Wrong. So very very wrong.

I know so many people who dream of world peace. Yes, I think that's great. But I dream of a world where I live in a society where treating others with basic dignity and respect, regardless of what's going on circumstantially, would be the societal norm. I dream of a world where the homeless guy is treated with just as much humanity as the CEO. I dream of a world were we finally practice what we preach, where we finally live up to our lofty words on how we're supposed to treat others.